The role of historical Indigenous burning patterns in reducing risk to mountain communities
For thousands of years before European arrival, the Indigenous people of the Rocky Mountains regularly used low-intensity surface fires to keep forests clear of debris and fuel to mitigate the risk of high-intensity wildfire. The proposed project will investigate the historical extent of landscape management by Indigenous burning methods and explore the incorporation of Indigenous burning practices into modern forest management programs to cope with recent extreme wildfire seasons. The project will analyze historical photos taken from early mountain surveys in the late 19th century to quantify the extent of the landscape that was regularly burned before fire exclusion policies were passed in the early 20th century. Utilizing image analysis software and other data from tree ring analysis and traditional knowledge, traditional forest management through Indigenous burning can be quantified in a way that is useful to modern forest management.